Average gas price at the pumps this month: 78.5
Average gas price a year ago: 52.5
Average price of crude per barrel: $36 (U.S.)
Average price of crude a year ago: $26 (U.S.)
Amount price at the pump should be going up: About 1 cent a litre for every dollar increase on a barrel of crude.
Actual amount price has been going up at the pump: From 4 to 11 cents per litre for every dollar increase on a barrel.
Factors being blamed for surge in crude prices: Labour unrest in Venezuela; political instability in Nigeria; explosion of tanker in New York harbour; cold weather; looming war in Iraq; 9/11; cars on the road are less fuel-efficient.
The wrench in that theory: Industry analysts say production gains in Venezuela and a modest increase in U.S. crude inventories should be combining to counterbalance the price premium associated with threat of war.
Burning question: If Canada is a net energy exporter, why are our gas prices being determined by world markets?
The answer oil companies usually offer: Economic integration with the U.S.
The answer that's closer to the truth: Canadian companies would find themselves at a profit disadvantage if they sold crude for less than producers in other countries.
How oil companies explain price differences from one area to another: Volume of sales.
What we found: Service stations with similar volumes and in close proximity in the downtown core have wildly varying prices.
Common consumer complaints: Oil companies are gouging consumers; prices always go up before weekends, especially long weekends; big oil companies are trying to put independents out of business.
What the oil companies says: We're imagining it.
What we found: Above-average prices early in the week; spikes in prices on Fridays.
What a Conference Board of Canada study found: With some exceptions, oil company profits for "downstream operations" (gas staions) are relatively modest.
What the critics say: "Downstream operations" are not the problem. It's the wholesale market price set by Canada's big three oil companies Esso, Shell and Petro-Canada that's driving up costs at the pump.
The financial bonus for oil companies: They earn lots of interest on taxes collected at the pump for the provincial and federal governments that don't have to be remitted for 30 days. About $150 million in gas taxes is collected per month in Ontario alone.
"You cannot separate yourself from the world markets. You take the good and you take the bad. When crude was down at $10 a barrel, I didn't hear anyone phoning me and asking me why. They loved it. Over an extended period of time it all averages out." Bob Clapp, vice-president, Canadian Petroleum Products Institute Ontario
"You tell me how it's possible for a handful of companies to drive the price up at retail, where there is supposed to be competition, by 3 cents a litre and all of them do it within a couple of hours of each other? The reality is that the federal government and other provincial governments have gutted their independent oil-monitoring agencies." Dan McTeague, Liberal MP and head of 2000 government task force on gas pricing
"Attacking big oil is a quick and easy diversion from the things we can control. One big reason for these sky-high prices is the tax component." John Williamson, provincial director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation